It’s generally been assumed there are not enough veterinarians to serve rural America. But that assumption may no longer be valid.  

“The veterinary schools and recruitment efforts have generated a supply of new and recent graduates that have both interest levels and skill sets that would serve them well in a food-animal practice, as well as a mixed-animal practice in rural America,” Gatz Riddell, executive vice president of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, pointed out on the AgriTalk radio show this week.

Rather than a shortage of veterinarians in rural areas, Riddell calls it a “distribution problem.”

There are parts of the country that are underserved, where people with cattle do not have ready access to veterinarians, Riddell acknowledged. At the same time, “there may not be enough infrastructure, there may not be enough potential clientele to generate the type of business that a veterinarian would need to exist in that area,” he said.

This situation is made even more acute by the large amount of debt that many students accumulate in veterinary school.  

To get veterinarians in the underserved areas, a better business or practice model may be needed, he adds.

"We've got to make sure, at the end of the day, that there’s a robust practice model that will allow them to make a living in a part of the country where they want to work,” Riddell says.

He mentioned some possibilities:

  • Regional practice centers where the work load is shared among several veterinarians instead of having just one practitioner putting in long hours, with frequent emergency calls.
  • Registered veterinary technicians working under the guidance of veterinarians.
  • More mentoring opportunities.

To hear the entire interview on AgriTalk, click here.